Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing
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Former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone spoke with Lewis Hamilton’s father in the days since the racer’s painful and controversial defeat at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The 91-year-old admitted he does not believe Hamilton will be able to stomach a return to racing action after losing out on his eighth world title in such circumstances.
Race director Michael Masi’s decision to end a late safety car so that racing could resume for the final lap incensed Mercedes with Hamilton leading the race.
He had dominated the race, but was on very old, hard tyres while rival Max Verstappen had been able to pit for fresh, soft rubber.
A resumption of the race was always going the leave the Dutchman with the advantage, even though Hamilton had track position, because he would have far better grip.
But by ending the safety car period ahead of the last lap, Mercedes felt Masi had broken the sporting regulations and decided the championship in an unfair manner.
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The team’s official protests fell on deaf ears, however, and they later decided to drop their appeals and concede that Verstappen had won.
Hamilton has stayed quiet about what happened in the days since, and has not posted on Instagram – he is usually a regular user of the social media platform.
His defeat and subsequent silence has sparked rumours that, aged 36, he is considering quitting the sport.
Ecclestone, the long-time F1 boss who is still heavily involved almost five years after he left his post, has made little attempt to hide the fact he is glad Verstappen won.
He has revealed, though, that he has had a phone call with Hamilton’s father Anthony since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
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Asked by Swiss outlet Blick if he had spoken with Hamilton, the 91-year-old replied: “No, but a few days ago with his father.
“I immediately felt that he wouldn’t answer a question about his son’s future. So we only talked about business!”
Ecclestone also revealed he believes the rumours of Hamilton’s impending retirement may well be true.
“I don’t think he’s coming back,” he added. “His disappointment is too big. And you can somehow understand it.
“Now it would be time to tackle his dream of becoming a fashion entrepreneur with seven world titles like Michael Schumacher.”
Hamilton’s departure from the sport would certainly weaken Mercedes, who would have the unenviable task of finding a replacement for a seven-time world champion.
But with new rivals and potentially big changes to the grid order courtesy of the new technical rules, Ecclestone said there is no guarantee Hamilton will be involved in a title race even if he does decide to continue.
“But Lewis could only lose in 2022,” he said. “Who knows how the new cars will reposition the field?
“With George Russell he would have an ambitious team-mate, of whom I am not as convinced as many experts, by the way.
“And then we don’t forget about Verstappen. With him, Hamilton has finally found an equal opponent after many years.
“In Hamilton, Max had a rival that everyone valued highly. Success counts twice. And I claim – Max is currently the best racing driver in the world.”
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